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Feral Cats & Trapping

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Services: Feral Cats

What are feral cats?

“Ferals” are cats that have been born in our backyards, near creeks, on commercial property, etc. and have not been socialized to people. Most have never had any human contact. Some may have had a bit of contact, but now fend for themselves. These cats do the best they can to survive, facing many hardships but many manage to lead a good existence, especially here in California with our temperate climate. Many compassionate people provide daily food and water for these cats.

Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) has proven to be a humane and effective method of managing feral cat populations. With TNR, a feral cat is humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, then returned to the location where trapped. It breaks the breeding cycle while allowing the cat to live out its natural life in its original territory.

Removing feral cats from a location can be ineffective as it opens a territorial void and can allow more unaltered cats to move in, starting the breeding cycle all over again.

How can I learn to coexist with nuisance feral cats?

While many people sympathize with feral cats struggle for survival, they are understandably not happy to find cat droppings in their yard. Fortunately there are many humane ways to deter them. Keep in mind that what might work for one cat might not work for another so it helps to try more than one solution.

1. Cats are sensitive to smell and dislike many scents. Choose one or more of the following and scatter it around in the areas you wish to keep the cats out of: coffee grounds, pipe tobacco, cayenne pepper, orange/lemon peelings, rags soaked with perfume or dried rue (an herb sold in health food stores).

2. Push disposable wooden chopsticks or 10-inch plant stakes into flower beds every 8-inches to prevent cats from digging or scratching.

3. Spray cat repellent (available at pet supply stores) around the perimeter of your yard and along the top of the fences.

4. Obtain an "ultrasonic" cat repellent.

How can I trap feral cats?

Feral stray cats four months of age from Campbell, Monte Sereno, Mountain View or Santa Clara who are not reclaimed by an owner and do not qualify for adoption are eligible to be released to a rescue group who will return the cat. In order to safely capture a feral cat and have him altered for TNR purposes, you will need to utilize a humane cat trap and follow the humane trapping guidelines listed below. Please note SVACA loans humane traps (a refundable $100.00 trap deposit is required) but the TNR service is free. If you have questions or concerns about feral cats in Campbell, Monte Sereno, Mountain View or Santa Clara, please contact us at

Trapping Guidelines

SVACA has humane traps available to capture nuisance domestic animals and feral cats. Traps can be borrowed from our office and used for up to two weeks; a $100 refundable deposit is required. The trap user must agree to the following guidelines.

  • To set this trap only when you are able to monitor it at regular intervals with time between checks not to exceed 30 minutes. 
  • To place this trap on your property only, unless otherwise discussed with SVACA. Agree to place this trap in a safe inconspicuous location.
  • To place this trap on a smooth, upgraded surface in a location that is protected from extreme weather conditions (direct sun, cold, rain, etc.), public view and other animals. 
  • Line the bottom of the trap with an old towel or newspaper. 
  • Once the animal is contained in the trap, place an old towel, blanket or sheet over the trap to calm the animal. 
  • If you plan to surrender the animal to SVACA, take trapped domestic animals to the SVACA Animal Care Center during normal business hours or contact SVACA to schedule a pick-up. Do not attempt to remove an animal without SVACA assistance. 
  • Animals to be altered, should be taken to a veterinarian or spay neuter clinic. 
  • To immediately notify SVACA if you have inadvertently trapped wildlife in order to request assistance with the release of the animal from where trapped.
  • Agree to release SVACA and the employees of the same from any responsibility or claim arising from the use of this trap.

More Information

For more information about feral cats and humane trapping, visit Cat Resource CenterAlley Cat Allies and Humane Society Silicon Valley. You may also want to read For Community Cats a Change is Gonna Come by Dr. Kate Hurley, DVM who is the program director of the Koret Shelter Medicine Program at the University of California-Davis.

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